"I need a new project," I said unloading a stack of library books.
"Um hmm", said my husband.
On a recent visit to our local library, I encountered Kate Arnell's book, "Six Weeks to Zero Waste."
Described on the cover as "a simple plan," it felt like something I could at least manage to flip through during the day. I added it to the growing pile of picture books and acknowledged that it felt good (and unexpected) to pick out a book for myself.
The feeling that it might provide a feasible project was reinforced by Arnsell's words:
I still create some waste. I'm not perfect and I don't believe anyone should try to be. ...
I want this book to be a reassuring voice that removes any guilt and encourages folks to do the best they can in that moment. Kate Arnell
Arnell's book turns out to be very "flippable," something manageable in bite sizes. For anyone interested in reducing waste, implementing any of the reasonable options outlined in the book feels like progress.
Included here are the options we implemented from the book (in addition to basic recycling / food collection practices) ordered, in my opinion, from "easiest/low cost", to "most time/higher cost":
"Lowest-hanging fruit" options (no cost, low effort/time):
Switch to paper-free bank statements and bills
This took approximately 5 minutes once I actually sat down and did it. Easier to make a list of bank statements/bills first and then just get them all done (paperless selection found on-line mostly under "options")
Make a "no junk mail, flyers, free newspapers, or leaflets please" sign and post it on or in the mailbox
This is the questionable notice I posted last week (took 2 minutes using a sharpie and tape), which has resulted in dramatically less "junk" mail:
Say "no" to receipts. Ask for emailed receipt if necessary.
This actually helped me last week when I needed to return something and had the receipt in email.
Take a photo of business cards instead of accepting them (or just enter contact)
This seems like a no-brainer, but was helpful to specifically read.
"Low-hanging fruit" options (minimal cost, small effort/time):
Invest in a reusable water bottle (and use it)
My favourites, which have travelled many, many miles! Metal for durability and avoiding plastic, also easy to wash / dishwasher friendly.
I use one for home (larger, helps to remember to drink more water), and one that fits in my backpack, for going out.
Carry reusable cloth bags (or start with one)
I was gifted 3 "Baggu" bags ($12 each and come in very fun prints). They are super light and fold up to fit easily into any regular carry bag (backpack, purse, etc). I remember to use them more now because I love them!
Reusable tea strainer / refillable coffee "K" cups
This is one of the higher impact changes that our household implemented.
Tea strainer for loose leaf tea $14 from David's Tea. This also avoids drinking microplastic particles from plastic tea bags.
Reusable K cups ordered from Amazon (higher effort to fill every evening, depending on how many cups required!)
"Fruit" options (some cost, some effort):
Reusable bamboo paper towels.
Full review here.
Glass bottles with natural cleaning products
Cost: 4 glass bottles ($14 each), 2 for the bathroom and 2 for the kitchen
Natural cleaner in each bottle, one for each room: 1:10 parts bleach:water, and 50:50 vinegar:water. It was exciting to discover that some stores (e.g., Community Natural Foods) actually stock refillable vinegar
Tip: Purchase 2 of the same bottles for bleach, and two of the same (but different from bleach) bottles for vinegar
Note: Do not use bleach and vinegar together as they can create chlorine gas fumes (and especially don't fill a bucket with a mixture of bleach, vinegar, and hot water like I did)
Personal care/beauty items:
I have certainly noticed a dramatic improvement in my sense of smell as a result of reducing my exposure to chemical cleaning products, synthetic perfumes, and personal care items filled with fragrance.
The term "fragrance" can actually be a way to hide what is truly in their products as their scent is considered an industry secret. Kate Arnell
Refillable floss container with silk floss refills
I actually found a glass floss container at Community Natural Foods. It cost ~$10 for the jar (including 40 meters of silk floss). The floss feels cleaner (no mint or wax coating), but it does break more easily. Still under review, but likely I will stick with it.
Refillable (at least reusable) containers for shampoo and conditioner.
This is a very personal one. For me, the switch to natural shampoo and conditioner is a priority, so I have tried a few. At this point, my favourite is from Rocky Mountain Soap Co. They run a "refill, reuse" program where 1L bottles of shampoo/conditioner can be returned in store and will be sterilized and refilled for purchase on shelves.
"Fruitful" options (higher cost, more effort/time):
Definitely a "more effort/time" option, but worth it to prioritize higher quality items that will be used longer, and ultimately create less waste.
Set up boxes for "sell", "donate" and regularly look for items to fill them
It may feel counterintuitive to be getting rid of things, especially when this whole book talks about reducing waste. But that's exactly the point of decluttering. We're freeing up those items that are sitting unloved and unused at the backs of our cupboards on in the garage, to be enjoyed and put to use by other people who genuinely need them ...
Selling items you no longer need helps keep them at their highest value and means they will be loved for longer by someone else. Kate Arnell